My daughter attended her first concert in the summer of 2019. My little sister took her to see Jojo Siwa. If you didn’t have a daughter between the ages of 6 and 10 in 2019, you probably don’t know who that is. If you do know who that is, you know that my sister is a saint.
So for the rest of that year, my son started asking about when he could go to his first concert. He told me that he wanted it to be either Fall Out Boy, Green Day or Weezer. Then, right before that Christmas, the three bands announced they were touring together! So I got him tickets to the show in DC. It’s driving distance from our home in North Carolina, plus as a child of the 90s, I love Green Day and I love my son so I decided to grit my teeth and endure Fall Out Boy.
The show was postponed from its original date for obvious reasons. It was postponed from its second date, again for obvious reasons. The show finally happened on Sunday and it was a blast. But this wasn’t the first concert experience I had in mind for my boy.
My wife, who is a doctor on the frontlines of the Delta variant surge, would not let us go if I didn’t promise to wear a mask and promise to make our son double-mask. Plenty of others came in masks too. Some that didn’t were aggressive about the fact that they weren’t in masks. There was an announcement from the stage about hand sanitizer and giving one another any bit of space we could. We didn’t know if all three bands were even going to show up, because someone in Fall Out Boy’s camp had tested positive for Covid-19.
I thought about this Sunday night after the show as I was scrolling Twitter and came across a link to a New York Times story. Governments at both the state and local levels are looking for “micro-influencers” to promote the Covid-19 vaccine. If you have 5,000 to 100,000 followers on various social media channels, you could get $1000 per month for posting content promoting the vaccine.
That follower count sounds right in line with sports radio. Hosts may have to be creative with the content they post. I can’t imagine a few Twitter posts are all these governments are looking for, but anyone with half a brain can see we are backsliding in terms of our return to normalcy. That’s not good for any business of any kind, except maybe DoorDash. Why aren’t hosts and stations aggressively pursuing these deals for themselves?
Plenty of hosts across the country have tremendous name recognition and influence in their market. Craig Carton knows how to create conversation in New York and has the social following to prove it.
Major markets are filled with hosts in the right follower count range. Marc Hochman in Miami has 29,000 followers, Petros and Money in LA have over 56,000, and Fred Toucher in Boston is closer to 80,000.
But it isn’t just major markets. There are hosts everywhere in that 5,000-100,000 follower range. Keith Murphy on KXNO in Des Moines has more than 72,000 followers. That is outsized influence in a market 71! Why wouldn’t the governments of that city or the state of Iowa be eager to talk to him about getting the word out about the vaccine?
Maybe this feels dirty to you. Maybe you feel like taking money to spread a message about the vaccine is a bit cynical. I don’t think that is something you should be worried about honestly. This isn’t whatever the pandemic version of war profiteering is.
If you have built your brand in the last 18 months on railing against Covid-19 being real or being a real threat, you are a big part of the reason we are where we are right now, and I am glad this isn’t an easy pivot you can make to get paid. But if you stayed home in the early days of the pandemic, and then wore a mask when you started going out, and then went and got the vaccine as soon as you could, you have done everything right to this point. If you have the platform to influence others to make the same decisions, what is wrong with aligning with someone that wants to put money in your pocket for doing the right thing?
We talk all the time about the intimacy of radio. Podcasts and other digital products may have a dedicated audience, but by focusing solely on content creators in the online space, governments are missing a key part of the unvaccinated population.
So much focus has been put on younger audiences and minority audiences. That is money well-spent to combat the misinformation that often targets these groups, but according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20% of Americans say they will either never get the vaccine or only get it if required. Another 10% wanted to “wait and see” as of June 2021. Of that 20%, 69% are white. Of that 10%, 53% are white.
Clearly, white men between 25 and 54 years of age need to be in the crosshairs of this message too. That is our target audience in the sports format.
Also, this isn’t country or active rock. Sports radio has a fairly diverse audience in terms of race and age. We have the ability to make an impact on a wide range of populations. If that is a blindspot for people making the decisions of how to spend the money on an influencer campaign, then it is up to hosts and sales managers to seek out those decision makers and make the case that sports radio can be the megaphone they need right now.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.